Thursday, January 19, 2012

Rising sea levels threat to Oman real estate plans

From: Construction Week Online by Claire Ferris-Lay on Jan 17, 2012

Research suggests that the Omani capital of Muscat (above) faces the threat of rising sea water. Photo: Getty.

Research suggests that the Omani capital of Muscat (above) faces the threat of rising sea water. Photo: Getty.

Rising sea levels in Oman could be a threat to future construction projects in the Gulf sultanate, new research claims.

Land in Oman is moving a few millimeters every year, impacting areas in the capital city of Muscat and Seefah while data has also suggested the country could be at risk of a tsunami in the future, a study from the German University of Technology in Oman has found.

“Here in Oman, the land is moving by a few millimeters each year - in both directions up and downwards. It is necessary to quantify these processes as large infrastructure projects are under development in the coastal regions,” Professor Goesta Hoffmann, associate professor of applied geosciences at the university, said in a statement. “As a consequence, parts of Oman especially between Seefah and Muscat are threatened.”

Construction projects in Oman, like many Gulf countries, have ramped up in recent years as the country looks to diversify its economy and address its growing national population.

Spending on construction projects is expected to reach more than $27bn by 2014, according to research from Venture.

Global sea levels are expected to rise up to 1.6 metres by 2100, threatening coasts across the world as climate change speeds up and thaws Greenland’s ice, the Oslo-based Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme said in May.

“The past six years [to 2010] have been the warmest period ever recorded in the Arctic,” AMAP said. “In the future, global sea level is projected to rise by 0.9 metres (2ft 11in) to 1.6 metres (5ft 3in) by 2100 and the loss of ice from Arctic glaciers, ice caps and the Greenland ice sheet will make a substantial contribution.

“Arctic glaciers, ice caps and the Greenland ice sheet contributed over 40% of the global sea level rise of around 3mm per year observed between 2003 and 2008,” it added.

Oman’s future construction projects are unlikely to be severely impacted by plate movement, said Angus McFarlane, regional technical director at Dubai-based Hyder Consulting.

“Yes they are [threatened] but it’s not a huge seismic risk. It wouldn’t affect future projects, most of the infrastructure project have competent engineers who design for a reasonable seismic hazard anyway,” he said.

But the new research could deter foreign investors from investing in large-scale infrastructure projects in the long term, said Salman Jalil, operations manager at Oman real estate website

“If people read there’s a default and they were planning to invest, definitely they will have their reservations,” he said. “It’s not something that will effect [house prices] in the near future. If it happens in the next two to five years then they’ll be a major fear and that might affect the market adversely but if it’s long-term…the fear will be less,” he added.

New historical and geological evidence also suggested that the Gulf state could be at risk from a tsunami. Scientists during their research of land levels also discovered a letter from HM Sultan Said Al Said describing a tsunami in 1945 and found open-water species such as mollusks and other marine species in the lagoons close to Sur and Ras al Hadd in the Sharquiyah region.

“Five nights ago, an earthquake occurred before dawn time, though no damages happened here as the earthquake was subtle, but the sea rose higher than usual to the point that it entered in the wadi that is behind Masjid Al-Khor/ mosque by the wadi,” Al Said’s letter said.

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